PARIS / WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 (Reuters) – The US and French presidents on Wednesday decided to restore relations, with France agreeing to fire its ambassador to Washington and the White House admitting to having made a mistake in negotiating an agreement for Australia bought the United States instead of French submarines without consulting Paris.
In a joint statement released after US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by phone for 30 minutes, the two leaders agreed to launch extensive consultations to restore confidence and to meet in Europe at the end of October.
They said Washington had pledged to step up “support for counterterrorism operations in the Sahel led by European states,” which US officials said meant continued logistical support rather than the deployment of US special forces.
Biden’s appeal to Macron was an attempt to mend fences after France accused the United States of stabbing him in the back when Australia dropped a $ 40 billion contract for submarines French conventional and opted for nuclear-powered submarines to be built with American and British technology instead. Read more
Indignant by the American, British and Australian agreement, France recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra.
“The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations between allies on issues of strategic interest to France and our European partners,” said the joint American and French statement.
“President Biden has expressed his continued commitment in this regard.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, interacting for the first time since the start of the submarine crisis, had a “good exchange” on the sidelines of a larger meeting at United Nations Wednesday, a senior state official A department official told reporters during an appeal.
The two senior diplomats are expected to have a separate bilateral meeting on Thursday. “We expect them to spend time together bilaterally tomorrow,” the official said, adding that Washington “very much welcomes” the deep engagement of France and the European Union in the Indo- Peaceful.
Earlier Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the call “friendly” and appeared optimistic about improving relations.
“The president had a friendly phone call with the French president where they agreed to meet in October and continue close consultations and work together on a range of issues,” she told reporters.
When asked if Biden had apologized to Macron, she replied: “He acknowledged that there could have been more consultation.”
The new US-Australian-British Security Partnership (AUKUS) was widely seen as designed to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the Pacific, but critics said it undermined Biden’s broader efforts to rally allies. such as France to this cause.
Officials in the Biden administration have suggested that the United States’ commitment to “strengthen its support for counterterrorism operations in the Sahel region” in West Africa meant the continuation of existing efforts.
France has an anti-terrorist force of 5,000 men fighting Islamist militants across the Sahel.
It reduces its contingent to 2,500-3,000, moves more assets to Niger and encourages other European countries to provide special forces to work alongside local forces. The United States provides logistical and intelligence support.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the US military will continue to support French operations, but declined to speculate on potential increases or changes in US aid.
“When I saw the verb strengthen, what I remembered is that we will remain committed to this task,” he told reporters.
Report by Michel Rose in Paris and Jeff Mason in Washington; Additional reporting John Irish in Paris, Humeyra Pamuk in New York and by Simon Lewis, Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Phil Stewart and Heather Timmons in Washington; Writing of Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Timothy Heritage, Marguerita Choy and Michael Perry
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